Irving laid out the Cleveland Browns' Josh Gordon in response to comments the wideout made about the Cavs' locker-room strife.
"Guys like Josh Gordon need to stay in his sport and mind his own business," Irving said, per Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal. "Does he still play for the Browns? I’ll continue to root for the Browns, but in terms of this stuff here, what goes on in this locker room, he needs to stay out of it."
You just can't take free shots at receivers like that these days, even when provoked.
UPDATE: Sunday, April 6, at 6:10 p.m. ET by Grant Hughes
Gordon obviously wasn't shaken up by Irving's salvo, writing via Instagram:
The direct mention of Dion Waiters comes in response to the shooting guard's dismissal of Gordon's original comments on the contentious relationship between the Cavaliers guards. Per Lloyd, Waiters said:
“[He] can’t put words in my mouth. That’s his opinion. That’s what he thinks. I can’t stop a man from saying that. That’s what he thinks.”
---End of update---
Irving's proverbial hit on Gordon comes as retaliation for the wideout's take on the widely reported rift between Irving and teammate Dion Waiters.
Gordon, speaking in an ESPN interview (via Lloyd), said of the Cavs' interpersonal strife: "I talked about it with Dion. He’s my neighbor in my building so we hang out all the time. I’m aware of the rift in the locker room. That’s just alpha males and supreme athletes trying to share the spotlight.”
Irving, who may or may not be the kind of alpha male Gordon thinks he is, definitely channeled his anger into productive play on the court. He dropped a career-high 44 points on the Charlotte Bobcats in the Cavaliers' first game following Gordon's comments.
There's no question Waiters and Irving have clashed this season, so Gordon's comments aren't out of bounds because they're untrue. Irving himself admitted there was some tension, and Waiters has never hidden from the comments he made earlier this year.
Lloyd recaps the situation:
Both guys wanted the ball in their hands and Waiters acknowledges he grew irritated when he didn’t think he was getting enough touches. When the players sounded off on each other during a players-only meeting following an early season loss at Minnesota, Waiters reportedly accused Irving and Tristan Thompson of playing “buddy ball” and not passing to him enough.
With the season coming to a close and the Cavaliers' playoff hopes effectively gone, it's understandable that Irving is a little irritable. After all, he's had to endure rampant speculation about his future all season. He voiced some of that frustration on Twitter recently:
Sick to my stomach with all these rumors and accusations. Can I play without media guessing at my life and putting B.S out for headlines.— Kyrie Irving (@KyrieIrving) April 5, 2014
At least be man or woman enough to come and ask me. There's no such source as "Kyrie's camp", nothing but nonsense.— Kyrie Irving (@KyrieIrving) April 5, 2014
Irving shouldn't be surprised by the media's fixation on his happiness in Cleveland, especially after LeBron James set the precedent for dissatisfied stars escaping the Cavs' failure factory. But he shouldn't have to deal with another athlete—from his own city, no less—offering up opinions based on hearsay.
Unfortunately for Irving, as the situation in Cleveland continues to be marked by more woe than wins, he'll continue to hear speculation about his future. On the off chance he hasn't already made up his mind to leave, the ongoing chatter might be enough to give him that final push out the door.
Then again, if the City of Cleveland really wants to keep Irving around, maybe the Browns could entice him with a spot as a free safety. He's clearly not afraid to drill a wide receiver when he thinks it's warranted.